Federal Choose Thad Heartfield: Man of mercy, lover of literature, prankster

Federal Judge Thad Heartfield: Man of mercy, lover of literature, prankster

Somberly reflecting on the lifetime of a person many recalled as a good-hearted jokester with a penchant for telling it like it’s, a stream of mourners flocked to Broussard’s on Jan. 3 to bask within the rays of jovial decide Thad Heartfield at the very least yet one more time by means of the vivid recollections of these near the self-described “punk from Port Arthur.” Heartfield handed from this life on Dec. 27, however will dwell on within the hearts of these left to cherish him by means of the love he unfold freely throughout his time on this earth.

At a memorial for Heartfield held on Jan. 3, son J. Thad learn aloud love letters his dad wrote to household – all the time telling his spouse and youngsters: “I really like you an excessive amount of.”

The sensation was mutual, J. Thad shared.

“I thank God for my life with my household and every part else within the journey from life to dying,” Heartfield expressed in his personal phrases. “After the clatter and ups and downs,” Heartfield added, he held “deep gratitude for all the great individuals who embraced me by means of time, for all of the unexpected items despatched my approach by God and household.”

Heartfield dismayed that point and phrases couldn’t sufficiently enable for the reason of depth of affection he felt for his betrothed – “and that actually doesn’t actually matter.

“It issues that I really like you. I beloved you then. I really like you with the closing of this final door.

“I really like you an excessive amount of.”


September 10, 1940 – December 27, 2022

Thad Heartfield, 82, of Beaumont, handed away within the presence of his household on December 27, 2022 in Houston, Texas following issues from surgical procedure. Earlier than he died, and at his request, Father Michael Jamail anointed Thad with the Sacrament of the Sick, gave him Holy Communion and the Apostolic Blessing, to which Thad responded with full consciousness.

Thad was born on September 10, 1940, in Port Arthur, Texas to Grace Linn Heartfield and Gilbert Bailey Heartfield. When Gilbert died 5 years later, the petite but succesful Grace was left with three rambunctious boys, Thad being the youngest. A religious Irish Catholic, Grace took the boys to mass every morning. Thad started his schooling at St. James Grammar College and graduated from Bishop Byrne Excessive College in 1959. His honest and life-long devotion to his Catholic religion took root on this atmosphere.

Younger Thad spent a lot of his free time outdoor together with his brothers, Gilbert and Linn. He labored for his grandfather, Truman Edward Linn, at Linn Motor Firm in Port Arthur, however he was not conferred preferential therapy because the proprietor’s grandson. His first job was sweeping flooring. With brilliant and inquisitive minds, Thad and his brother Linn have been quickly rebuilding automobiles for enjoyable (and simply perhaps to make them run a bit quicker). The brothers shared a ardour for automobiles, boats and bikes. So nice was this curiosity that Thad delayed getting into school for a 12 months to drag-race automobiles, compete in off-road bike competitions and journey bareback in West Texas scrub-brush rodeos. Central to Thad’s character from an early age was his zest for all times and love of journey.

However Thad properly determined to pursue a future past racetracks and rodeos. He enrolled at St. Mary’s College in San Antonio, the place he met the love of his life, Cornelia Bozada, on a blind date. Thad mentioned fortune smiled on him when he and Cornie met. They married, starting a 60-plus-year union marked by steadfast devotion, mutual respect and a lot laughter. Thad obtained his regulation diploma from St. Mary’s in 1965. He all the time mentioned he had the easiest motivation to take his authorized research critically: His son J. Thad was born on Thad’s first day of regulation faculty, and he went straight from the hospital to the lecture corridor.

Thad then returned to Southeast Texas together with his younger household and made a house in Beaumont. He was delighted when daughter Jennifer arrived, finishing their household of 4. As a result of Thad and Cornie have been comparatively younger dad and mom, Grandmother Grace (aka “Little Crimson Hen”) joked that J. Thad and Jenny did an distinctive job rearing them. However Thad gave Cornie all of the credit score for manning the house entrance in these early years when launching his profession required lengthy hours at work.

And work Thad did. After two years as a Jefferson County assistant district lawyer, he was appointed lawyer for the Metropolis of Beaumont. At age 28, Thad was the youngest particular person in Texas to carry the place. He ultimately transitioned to personal follow, specializing in civil, industrial and governmental regulation for the following 25 years. He was an achieved, extremely revered and well-liked trial lawyer – in different phrases, a unicorn. Because the lawyer for each Jefferson County and Drainage District 6, and later in two phrases as director for the Decrease Neches River Valley Authority, Thad was integral to the success of a number of initiatives very important to Southeast Texas’ financial prosperity.

Thad’s Melancholy-era childhood instilled in him an unparalleled work ethic and frugality. He was ultimately in a position to spend extra time away from the workplace with the individuals he most beloved: Cornie, J. Thad (aka “Thad the Lad” or “Tad”) and Jenny. Though humble when it got here to his personal accomplishments, he took nice satisfaction in his youngsters. His notes to them and Cornie often ended with a young message coined by a younger J. Thad: “I really like you an excessive amount of.”

Thad’s adventurous, fun-loving nature flourished. He sailed the Atlantic with Linn. He found a love for SCUBA diving and took journeys to Mexico with family and friends. As a toddler, he treasured spending time on Bolivar Peninsula together with his household, and he was now in a position to share his love for the seashore with J. Thad and Jenny.

In 1993, a brand new chapter within the Heartfields’ lives started on a Sabine Go speckled trout fishing journey. Congressman Jack Brooks mentioned he was touring with President Invoice Clinton on Air Power One the following day and deliberate to suggest Thad for appointment to the federal bench. Did Thad wish to be a federal decide? The Congressman advised Thad to speak with Cornie, suppose it over and take on a regular basis he wanted to contemplate this monumental life change – so long as he had a solution by 5:30 a.m. the following morning. Nevertheless it was a straightforward choice for the Heartfields and the federal government. In the midst of the intensive safety clearance and background examine into Thad’s life, the commentary was made that “every part dangerous about Thad Heartfield could possibly be written on the again of a matchbook cowl.” The Senate Judiciary Committee – chaired by then-Senator Joe Biden – unanimously voted his nomination out of committee. On St. Patrick’s Day 1995, the Port Arthur boy of Irish descent was confirmed – once more by unanimous vote – for a lifetime presidential appointment to the federal bench.

Thad would preside over 1000’s of civil and felony circumstances as a federal decide within the subsequent 27 years. Notable circumstances embrace a bellwether trial that led to the explosion of the patent docket within the Jap District of Texas and a category motion involving defective pc drives that resulted in a $2.1 billion greenback settlement.

Thad was named chief decide for the Jap District of Texas in 2003. He was on the helm when sequential hurricanes disrupted court docket operations. Underneath his steerage, the Jap District grew to become one of many first federal courts within the nation to implement on-line case administration and digital submitting. Throughout his tenure as chief decide, the district additionally secured congressional funding to create a brand new Justice of the Peace place and assemble the Plano courthouse. A pure chief, Thad was admired by his fellow jurists for his experience in forging compromise.

Thad maintained significant friendships together with his employees and regulation clerks. There was an actual sense of household in his chambers. He was devoid of ego or entitlement. He took the work of the court docket critically, however not himself. He made working exhausting enjoyable. He knew that having enjoyable whereas doing good work is crucial to happiness. Regulation clerk lore consists of colourful tales involving chasing armadillos by means of bushes, the appropriation of a prepare, and plenty of tales which are finest omitted of print. When you labored for Thad, you didn’t wish to go away. Longtime employees consists of secretary Kristi Wernig (29 years), courtroom deputy Jill Veazey (27 years), and regulation clerk Mary Margaret Groves (22 years). All of his staff think about working for him a privilege for which they’re deeply grateful.

It was not the importance of his circumstances or his accomplishments for the Jap District that made Thad’s time on the bench so exceptional. What’s extraordinary is that the gown didn’t change Thad. He continued to be the hardworking, humble man of integrity he had all the time been. He knew learn how to hear and join with individuals, as a result of he genuinely favored them. He was a gentleman who handled each particular person he encountered with respect—together with felony defendants. Thad had a novel capability to empathize with the attorneys showing earlier than him. He by no means forgot how troublesome the lifetime of a solo trial lawyer could be. (Due to this he was recognized to choose up unanswered calls to chambers. He by no means understood why the callers hung up once they heard a federal decide on the road.) He remembered what it felt prefer to be the underdog. He was merciful; earlier than depriving any felony defendant of their proper to liberty, he scoured the file to make sure he reached a simply and honest sentence.

Though he labored lengthy hours, he continued to have enjoyable. Thad and Cornie started taking annual journeys to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton Nationwide Park. He regarded ahead to this prolonged trip with Cornie all 12 months. Thad embraced the invigorating challenges of mountain climbing the paths of the Grand Teton. He and Cornie additionally took up fly-fishing, one thing he mentioned she was fairly good at. When Jenny visited her dad and mom in Wyoming one 12 months, she and her dad went paragliding collectively. He stored a video of that have on his cellphone that he shared with delight. Thad traveled to France and Croatia together with his brother Linn and went to Eire with Cornie.

Thad additionally created adventures nearer to house: likelihood encounters with alligators whereas strolling Cattail Marsh, co-piloting a non-public airplane flown by J. Thad, and fishing the Gulf of Mexico. Just lately he and Cornie did NASCAR ride-alongs on the Texas Motor Speedway. In late November Thad flew to the Valley to have fun his brother Gilbert’s 91st birthday.

Thad was a beloved member of his neighborhood whose wit and knowledge shall be vastly missed. He reigned as King Neches of the Neches River Pageant in 2011, and was a Reward of Life distinguished honoree. The members of his males’s weekly Bible examine will miss his insightful contributions. Thad was a religious parishioner who loved common religious, authorized and theological discussions with Father Jamail, for whom he had nice respect and admiration.

However greater than king, decide, “the honorable,” or “your honor,” the title Thad most cherished was being “Bop” to his eight extraordinary grandchildren. He positioned their footage below the glass on his desk so that they have been with him all through his day. Their handwritten notes have been tucked in locations the place he might see them. His eyes lit up when he spoke about his grandchildren, they usually have been a supply of nice pleasure to him. They’re the legacy of which he’s most proud.

Thad embodied the Prophet Micah’s biblical counsel: “To do justly, love mercy, and stroll humbly with God.” That scripture was posted in his non-public quarters the place he might see it every day. These ideas have been central to his id. In phrases borrowed from Hamlet, “We will not look upon [a man of] his like once more.” Though the authorized neighborhood has misplaced an esteemed large, it’s Thad the husband, Thad the daddy, Thad the grandfather, and Thad the good friend whose absence shall be missed essentially the most. There isn’t any doubt that every one the trumpets sounded as he handed to the opposite facet.

Many are left to cherish the reminiscence of this exceptional man. He’s survived by his spouse of over 60 years, Cornelia Bozada Heartfield; his son, J. Thad Heartfield, and spouse Melanie, of Beaumont, Texas; and his daughter, Jennifer Heartfield Fleming, and husband Scott, of Heath, Texas. He leaves behind eight adored grandchildren: Hannah Grace Heartfield, Claire Heartfield, Bailey Heartfield, Aidan Heartfield, Patrick Fleming, Cole Fleming, Isabelle Fleming and Gracie Fleming. His older brother, Dr. Gilbert Bailey Heartfield and spouse Yolanda of McAllen, Texas, additionally survive him, as do many nieces and nephews.

A gathering of Choose Heartfield’s household and pals was held Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, at Broussard’s, 2000 McFaddin Avenue, Beaumont. A Funeral Mass was held Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, at St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica, 700 Jefferson Avenue, Beaumont. His cremation preparations shall be dealt with by means of Broussard’s Crematorium, below the path of Broussard’s, Beaumont.

In lieu of customary remembrances for these so wanting, memorial contributions could be made in Thad’s reminiscence to Some Different Place, 590 Heart Avenue, Beaumont, Texas 77701, or a charity of their alternative.